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The effects of quantitative skills training on college outcomes and peers

  • Butcher, Kristin F.
  • McEwan, Patrick J.
  • Taylor, Corrine H.

This paper estimates the causal effect of taking a course in quantitative reasoning on students' academic performance and classroom peer-group composition at a liberal arts college. To identify effects, the paper compares the outcomes of otherwise similar students who barely passed a baseline quantitative skills assessment (not taking the course) with students who barely failed (taking the course). The regression-discontinuity estimates show little impact on academic outcomes for student close to the passing cutoff, including grades on subsequent courses with quantitative content, but we are unable to distinguish small from zero effects. Exogenous course assignment does affect the composition of students' classroom peer groups in subsequent years. The effects can only be generalized to students in the vicinity of the passing threshold (but not students with much worse quantitative skills at the baseline). We discuss implications for research and policy on remediation.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics of Education Review.

Volume (Year): 29 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 187-199

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecoedu:v:29:y:2010:i:2:p:187-199
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  1. Patrick J. McEwan & Joseph S. Shapiro, 2008. "The Benefits of Delayed Primary School Enrollment: Discontinuity Estimates Using Exact Birth Dates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
  2. Philip Oreopoulos & Daniel Lang & Joshua Angrist, 2009. "Incentives and Services for College Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 136-63, January.
  3. Eric P. Bettinger & Bridget Terry Long, 2009. "Addressing the Needs of Underprepared Students in Higher Education: Does College Remediation Work?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(3).
  4. Guido Imbens & Thomas Lemieux, 2007. "Regression Discontinuity Designs: A Guide to Practice," NBER Technical Working Papers 0337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Juan Carlos Calcagno & Bridget Terry Long, 2008. "The Impact of Postsecondary Remediation Using a Regression Discontinuity Approach: Addressing Endogenous Sorting and Noncompliance," NBER Working Papers 14194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Lee, David S. & Card, David, 2008. "Regression discontinuity inference with specification error," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 655-674, February.
  7. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
  8. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
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